If you’re vegan, do you think you get fewer colds than the average person? Speaking for myself, I have to answer with a resounding “yes.” I’ve been vegan for the last 15 years. In that time, I have never had the flu. I get a cold about every 3 to 5 years, and the duration and severity of the cold are far less than when I wasn’t vegan. The colds I have gotten since being vegan are more of an annoyance than anything…just enough to make me feel a little under the weather. The same holds true for my husband, who has been vegan for the same amount of time.
There has not been a lot of research on whether or not vegans get less sick than the rest of the population. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true. The majority of vegans consume many more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and soy than non-vegans, and without the addition of meat, dairy or eggs. All of these plant foods contain antioxidants, which help support the immune system.
Could the phytochemicals in soy products like tofu and tempeh play a part? A 2009 study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, studied soy isoflavones and virus infections. In part, the study stated “Isoflavones and their related flavonoid compounds exert antiviral properties in vitro and in vivo against a wide range of viruses.
Genistein is, by far, the most studied soy isoflavone in this regard, and it has been shown to inhibit the infectivity of enveloped or nonenveloped viruses, as well as single-stranded or double-stranded RNA or DNA viruses. At concentrations ranging from physiological to supraphysiological (3.7-370 muM), flavonoids, including genistein, have been shown to reduce the infectivity of a variety of viruses affecting humans and animals, including adenovirus, herpes simplex virus, human immunodeficiency virus, porcine roductive and respiratory syndrome virus, and rotavirus.”
Also, could the absence of what vegans DON’T eat play a part in this phenomenon? As far back as 1967, an older study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, studied cow’s milk allergies. In part, the findings stated, “Milk and other food sensitivities are a common cause of recurrent gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders in infants and children.” (Since this study, there have been numerous studies, papers and experts speaking out about the correlation between cow’s milk consumption and allergies, asthma and rhinitis.)
I’m anxious to find out if this phenomenon (of vegans getting fewer colds) will ever be studied at greater length. But in the meantime, those of us that eat a plant-only diet already know the answer…with or without the studies.